Sweet Slovenia: A beautiful, budget-friendly option for your next break
From lovely Ljubljana to the spectacular sight of Lake Bled, Deirdre Conroy enjoys a short escorted break in Slovenia.
Long strips of quayside restaurants, with no cars driving by as you wine and dine, are fairly rare in a capital city. But open markets and quays full of locals and tourists in 'relax' mode...this is the essence of Ljubljana.
I've walked the elegant historic backstreets, toured the hill-top castle and the house of their legendary architect Plečnik, enjoyed a picturesque river cruise for €10, and it's only 4pm. The caves and lakes are next.
With all the tours of caves and lakes and hills, it's only right to indulge in Slovene gourmet cuisine at Gostilna Na Gradu inside Ljubljana Castle. A tasting menu of six courses for €45 sees dishes artfully presented - scampi, cuttlefish and corn come in an inky mix, while matured beef with goose liver and vegetable bouquet is so fancy and heavenly.
Food, wine, coffee and delicious ice-cream are very affordable all over the city - an Americano or glass of local wine costs less than €2. Prešeren Square (named after their famous poet) leads to ideal boutique shopping on pedestrian streets, and big open parks, all walking distance from the hotel, so you can burn off the cals and not feel too guilty.
Get up early for tours to the cathedral-like Postojna Caves, Slovenian Alps, Lake Bohinj, the famous Lake Bled with its Disney-style castle (above), plus a coastal visit to the Mediterranean and a local vineyard stop at VinaKoper.
While Slovenia is not too familiar to Irish tourists, it is bordered by Italy and Austria, so its city architecture and rural farmhouses will feel very familiar if you've visited the Alps. Everybody I met spoke English, the euro is its currency since 2004, and the country seemed to me to be a most litter-free and safe destination.
There are no direct flights from Ireland, otherwise everyone on the trip said they would go straight back.
Deirdre was a guest of Travel Department, which offers five-night short breaks in Slovenia from €699pp to €879pp, including three-star hotel accommodation, transfers and several excursions. Call 01 637 1600 or visit traveldepartment.ie for further information.
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